3 Key Components to a Small Business Return-to-Work Program

When one of your employees suffers an injury on the job, the losses — in time, productivity, finances, and morale — can quickly add up. And although these losses tend to affect small businesses (SMBs) more dramatically, since their staff members are likely to have multiple roles within the company, SMBs are often ill-prepared to handle the effects of a workplace injury. With a return-to-work (RTW) program, though, you can help injured employees recover faster and more efficiently. Let’s look at why and how.

How Costly Are Workplace Injuries?


According to the National Safety Council, 60 million days and more than $200 billion are lost to injuries every year. However, effectively managing absences doesn’t just protect your business’s bottom line; it also helps improve both employee recovery time and their chances of returning to work at all. This is particularly important, as research shows that the longer an employee is out, the less likely they are to return — with only a 50 percent chance an employee will return after a six-month absence.

The 3 Elements of a Successful Return-to-Work Program


A successful RTW program should address these three key components: medical treatment, communication, and transitioning.

  1. Quality Medical Treatment
    Above all, your injured employee’s health should be the top priority. Helping your employee receive the right care at the right time avoids setbacks and misdiagnoses. Talk to your workers compensation provider to help navigate the claims process and find medical providers who understand work-related injuries.
  2. Communication and Compassion
    Ease your injured employees concerns by practicing open and empathetic communication. Keep them updated on what’s happening at work and engage their recovery with phone calls, notes, or even flowers. Additionally, you should regularly communicate with your employee’s workers compensation claims case manager. The more the case manager understands about the employee’s role, the more they’ll be able to help with healthcare providers and a rehab plan.
  3. Gentle Transitions
    Keep in mind that transitions may be time consuming and require flexibility. Take the time to assess working conditions and make any necessary adjustments or adaptations before the employee returns. You may need to make a list of temporary or transitional roles if the employee will be unable to perform their previous job until more fully recovered.


The Benefits of Being Proactive


Regardless of how limited your resources are, being proactive helps keep your workplace safer and eases productivity challenges during an employee’s absence. Plus, an effective RTW program helps your business comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), which requires the reasonable accommodations of employees with disabilities, including disabilities from a work-related injury.

If you’re still unsure about developing a RTW program, reach out to your independent insurance provider. They have the extensive experience necessary to help you navigate a workers compensation claim and develop an effective RTW program to help your employee and your business return to productivity as usual.

For a step-by-step guide to helping an injured employee get back to work, check out our article: 5 Steps to Helping Injured Employees Return to Work.

This website is general in nature, and is provided as a courtesy to you. Information is accurate to the best of Liberty Mutual’s knowledge, but companies and individuals should not rely on it to prevent and mitigate all risks as as an explanation of coverage or benefits under an insurance policy. Consult your professional advisor regarding your particular facts and circumstance. By citing external authorities or linking to other websites, Liberty Mutual is not endorsing them.